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Lunchbreak: Eric Kendricks & Irv Smith Jr. Make ESPN's 'All-Short-Guys Team'

Throughout the NFL's history, some of the league's top players have been those deemed "undersized" at their position but excelled nonetheless.

Take, for instance, Hall of Famer John Randle, who at 6-foot-1 was a shorter-than-average defensive tackle but earned six straight Pro Bowl nods and All-Pro honors during his successful career with the Vikings.

ESPN's Jeff Legwold recently rolled out the “2020 All-Short-Guys Team,” which also no-doubt includes future Hall of Famers – such as Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Legwold wrote:

Let's get this straight from the jump: This is a celebration, not a list making fun of short players.


For well over three decades, the NFL Draft has been a part of my day. It has included calls, sit-downs over lunch (remember those?) and breaking down film over breakfast while folks at the neighboring tables ask if the bacon is really that good.

Countless times during those discussions a player's ridiculously good résumé will be tarnished with the line, "Well, he's short."


But skipping over a player because of his height is not always the smartest move. Just ask perennial Defensive Player of the Year front-runner Aaron Donald (6-0¾ at the 2014 combine, or short for a generational defensive lineman).

On a personal note, as someone whose driver's license says 4-foot-11, I have a hard time thinking of someone who's 6-feet as "short." But as Legwold also pointed out, "NFL short and real-life short are two very different things."

View the best tight end photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.

So without further ado, let's take a look at the two Vikings Legwold included on his short-guy roster: tight end Irv Smith, Jr., and linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Legwold chose Smith, listed at 6-foot-2, as his No. 1 tight end, followed by San Francisco's Jordan Reed, Tennessee's Anthony Firkser and Indianapolis' Trey Burton (also all 6-2) as backups.

[Smith] missed two games with a back injury, but [the] second-year player was third among the team's pass-catchers with five touchdowns.

On defense, Legwold tabbed Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Kendricks, both of whom are listed at 6-feet. He referred to Kendricks as a "do-it-all guy who has had five consecutive 100-tackle seasons as one of the best coverage players at the position."

Kendricks may be considered "short" at the linebacker position, but he's certainly far from short on talent.

Since being drafted by Minnesota 45th overall in 2015, Kendricks has totaled 639 tackles (league stats), seven interceptions (including two returned for touchdowns), 9.0 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, 41 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

To see Legwold's full short-guy roster, click here.

Vikings should focus on trenches in offseason, PFF says

The new league year, set to kick off on March 17, will certainly bring roster changes to all 32 NFL teams through free agency. And when the NFL Draft rolls around, clubs will have another opportunity to add new talent and fresh faces.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus took a look at biggest offseason needs for each team, and Sam Monson opined that Minnesota should focus on guard and defensive line this spring. He wrote:

The Minnesota Vikings have several glaring holes that need to be addressed, none bigger than on the offensive line.

According to Monson, Dru Samia – who started four games at right guard before being replaced by rookie Ezra Cleveland – received a PFF pass-blocking grade of just 18.7. Dakota Dozier, who started all 16 games at left guard, earned a 36.7 pass-blocking grade.

Monson called the Vikings defensive line "an abysmal unit" in 2020 after losing multiple players to free agency, COVID-19 opt-out (Michael Pierce) and a season-ending neck injury (Danielle Hunter). He added that "any spot outside of [Hunter's] could use an immediate upgrade."

As far as the Vikings NFC North Rivals, Monson said that Chicago should key in on quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver.

The Mitchell Trubisky experiment has failed on multiple occasions now and adding Nick Foles to the roster as a hedge did little to help. It's time for the team to clean house at the position and start over. Maybe one of those players can serve as a solid backup, but the Bears need a new starter.

Trubisky recorded twice as many turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws this season, and while Foles was better in that regard, he still passed for just 5.9 yards per attempt and earned a PFF passing grade below 70.0 in a season of record passing numbers.

Monson tabbed linebacker, edge defender and wide receiver for Detroit and linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback for Green Bay.